AICPA Survey: Flexible Work Arrangements Can Help CPA Firms Recruit and Retain Women

U.S. CPA firms that offer modified work arrangements have significant advantages in terms of recruiting and retaining female employees, according to the AICPA’s 2019 CPA Firm Gender Survey.

About half the firm respondents reported that flexible schedules (56%), reduced hours (50%), compressed work schedules (49%) or telecommuting options (56%) helped attract employees, while about 80% of firms said those arrangements helped retain employees.

“While perspectives are changing, women are still more likely to handle duties involving child care and managing households. At the same time, many younger workers expect employers to offer them some flexibility as to where and when their work is done,” says Jacquelyn Tracy, chair of the AICPA’s Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee and partner with Mandel & Tracy of Providence, R.I. “Modified work arrangements allow women to more successfully manage their careers as CPAs and the priorities in their personal lives.”

A Pew Research Center study found mothers spend more than 31% of their day on child care and housework, compared to about 17% for fathers.

The AICPA’s biennial gender survey asks firms how they are addressing gender disparities and advance women in the profession. More than 1,100 firms, ranging from those with fewer than 10 CPAs to those with more than 100, responded to the survey, which was conducted in 2019.

In addition to asking about working arrangements, the survey also questioned firms about gender distribution on executive committees, formal programs to advance women and succession planning. The survey found that 39% of firms monitor pay parity between genders and 85% of those who monitor disparities took action to close gaps.

Additionally, one in five firms offered unconscious bias training, with 59% of the firms with more than 100 CPAs offering it.

Among other findings of the survey:

  • The larger the firm, the more likely it is to have formal mentor and sponsorship programs to help advance women and minorities.
  • Women in small firms of up to 10 CPAs comprise 53% of executive committees but only 16% of firms with more than 100 CPAs.
  • An analysis of job titles found that women were nearly equally represented or outnumbered men in CPA firms through the senior manager level, after which the ratio declines.
  • Only 44% of firms have a succession plan, down from 47% in 2017. But 6% included a gender component in their plan, up from 2%.

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